New technology improves IED detection

Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory announced on Wednesday the development of a new technology that can better detect improvised explosive devices.

The new technology utilizes silicon to fabricate a sensor able to trace chemicals in a revolutionary way. The sensor, called Silicon Nanowires in a Vertical Array with a Porous Electrode, is small, portable, low power and light weight. While the sensor is in early developmental stages, it has demonstrated detection capability on the parts-per-billion, and even parts-per-trillion, level of sensitivity.

"Nanoscale is 1x10-9 meters," Dr. Christopher Field, the NRL scientist leading this research, said. "So, let's assume that the diameter of a human hair is 100 microns. If you can take the diameter of a human hair, cut it, and look at the cross section area. We can fit a million of our nanowires in the cross section area of a single human hair."

In the future, this new breakthrough in nanotechnology might be distributed to warfighters and security personnel. The SiN-VAPOR project might also be used in small field-deployable sensors on something like a cell phone.

"Combine [silicon] experience with the scientists and facilities that we have here at NRL, we are very excited and confident about getting over that last hurdle to transition this technology to the warfighter and also to the consumer," Field said.